The third annual Out of the Darkness Walk Sept 24 brought out many people, including faculty members and cadets, to bring awareness to the prevention and signs of suicide. The walk is conducted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention through the West Point Suicide Prevention Office, which is part of the Army Substance Abuse Program, Department of Human Resources and the Garrison. Garrison Commander Col. Andrew S. Hanson was the main speaker.

"This is an important event to recognize the affect suicide has on our families," Hanson said. "An estimated 22 veterans a day die from suicide. A Soldier is a Soldier for life and we want to walk to raise awareness to our cadets, active duty and our veterans. We want to maintain life."

Dr. Keita Franklin, Department of Defense director of suicide prevention, also spoke at the event.

One of the things Franklin said is prevention starts with changing attitudes about people who are feeling a little alone.

"It's OK not to be OK," Franklin said. "Suicide is a real problem, but it is preventable. You should not be afraid to talk about it."

The walk handed out various colored beads to wear, indicating whom you are remembering as you walk. White beads indicate a child; red, loss of a spouse; gold, loss of a parent; orange, loss of a sibling; purple, loss of a friend; and silver, loss of a first responder or military.

There were memorials made up of photographs and photo album clippings of the faces of those who died by suicide.

Many stopped and looked at the smiling faces, some with family and friends who may have been struggling with pain at the time--and no one knew it.

Class of 2017 Cadet Rischell Lott spoke about her classmate and friend Nick Wright who died by suicide.

"He gave (much of himself) all the time," Lott said. "We would joke around about his beautiful eyes. In hindsight, we saw the signs, but we were not educated or aware enough at the time to recognize them. It starts in the head and ends up a suicide."

One of the signs of someone contemplating suicide is a change in behavior or the presence of entirely new behaviors. Behaviors such as acting recklessly, withdrawing from activities, sleeping too much or too little and increased use of alcohol or drugs.

A new behavior is concerning when a new or changed behavior is related to a painful event, like a loss or change.

Another sign is if a person talks about being a burden to others, talks about feeling trapped, having no reason to live or experiencing pain.

Mood is another sign, people who are considering suicide often display one or more of the following: depression, loss of interest, rage, irritability or humiliation and anxiety.
However, there is no single cause of suicide.

Suicide often occurs when one is stressed to the point of exceeding the current coping abilities or has a mental disorder.

Ninety percent of people who die by suicide have a mental disorder at the time of their deaths; depression is one of them. There are biological and psychological treatments that can help address issues that put people at risk for suicide.

Recognize the signs. Be aware and be there.

Feeling helpless and/or suicidal, call 1-800-784-2433 or 1-800-273-8255 to speak to someone.